Hooks of a Different Bend

Few things in fishing is more frustrating to anglers than a hooked fish becoming an unhooked fish. It happened to a novice I had fishing with me one day. He was reeling steadily, the fish was sloshing around near the surface, about half way to the boat, then unexpectedly, the rod lost its bend, the line its tightness, the fish was swimming back to the depths.

“Why did that happen?” the fisherman asked.

I explained the situation perfectly. “The hook came unhooked from the fish.”

What? Didn’t that sum it up exactly? He should have asked, “Did I do something wrong?”

I was being flippant and I did go on to tell the fellow it wasn’t anything he’d done incorrectly. It was just an instance when the fish won.

There are certainly things a person can do incorrectly to facilitate a hooked fish becoming an unhooked fish. An angler can allow slack to get in the line. That’s one of the reasons fishing rods bend. Even if a person stops reeling for a moment, the bent rod continues keeping the line tight to the fish. Sometimes the fish can swim faster than the fisher-person can reel. Sometimes the fish jumps and shakes it’s head. When the line goes slack, the hook or lure can fly free. I’ve seen it happen too often.

Some kinds of fish have hard mouths. Instead of the hook penetrating deep enough to be well-stuck, the fish is just barely impaled and the hook will easily dislodge. Some kinds of fish have extremely soft tissue around it’s mouth. Either the hook just pops free or the hook creates a large hole from which the hook can easily just unhook.

None of these are certainties. I’ve seen people make every mistake possible and their fish somehow remains hooked. I’ve seen fish jump, shaking so violently I could hear the BBs inside the lure making sounds like an upset rattlesnake. The fish stayed hooked.

In truth, my flippant answer to my fishing partner’s question was the only way I could be spot on with my answer. There were any number of reasons the fish came unhooked.

So when a couple of entrepaneurs came out with “hooks with a new bend” recently; allegedly designed to make it harder for fish to inadvertently become unhooked, I took note. Anything that will keep unexpected or unexplained unhookings from occurring when I’m fishing is something I’ll sign up to get.

Shortly after someone invented wire about 2000 years ago, some fisherman bent the wire into a hook shape, sharpened one end of it and used it to catch a fish. For all I know, the person who invented wire did it just to make a better fishing hook. Previously, hooks were carved from wood, ivory, seashells or chipped out of flint, like arrowheads.

No doubt a few days after the first wire-hook caught fish was on the stringer, fishermen were trying to make it better. Was a long shank better than a short one? Should the point be offset or in-line with the shank? Take a look in any tackle display and you’ll see a dozen hook varieties on display, in dozens of sizes and colors, each “supposedly” better than all the rest.

I was skeptical when I heard the buzz about hooks with newfangled bends in them and the testimonials from professional anglers about how much better the new hooks were than all the old fashioned hooks they formerly employed. Skeptic or not, I got some of these new and improved models and put them into action.

It’s not unheard of for me to have a fish come off the hook. It’s not unheard of for me to lose two in a row. But when I lost the first two fish I ever hooked with the first model of hook (almost) guaranteed to never pull free, I switched back to a lure with my old standard style hook.

That particular model featured only a kinky bend just below the barb. Realistically, it didn’t look revolutionary. I probably would have caught the next half dozen fish without losing even one. If I’d have caught the first half dozen fish without a loss, I’d have been sold and would have spent the next week outfitting all my lures with the new style. I’m glad it failed my test.

Then another manufacturer came out with a radically different bend in their hooks. It looked different and the design won a prestigious “best of show award” at a major fishing trade show.

I got some of these beauties, each one featuring a square bend instead of a round bend and according to their hype, fewer fish would inadvertently come loose as a result. I was still skeptical and also amazed it took 2000 years for someone to figure that out.

Deja vu, all over again – the first two fish I hooked with these square-benders managed to come loose inexplicably as well. I realize it was probably more happenstance than inferior design, but the experience did save me the money and effort it would have taken to retrofit all my lures.

Old design or new, there’s nothing better than a tight line to keep your fish on the hook.

Mike Schoonveld grew up hunting and fishing in rural Northwest Indiana. In 1986 he piggy-backed a career as an outdoor writer onto his already long tenure as a wildlife biologist with the Indiana DNR. Now retired from his DNR position, Schoonveld is a U.S. Coast Guard licensed boat captain, operates Brother Nature Charters on Lake Michigan and spends much of his time trailering his boat to fishing hotspots around Indiana and the Midwest. Mike can be reached through his website www.brother-nature.com or visit Mike's Outdoor World Blog at www.bronature.com


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